ricardo dominguez on 26 Mar 2001 14:30:46 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] [ A20: The Struggle Is Live ] A Call for Electronic Civil Disobedience Against the FTAA

[ A20: The Struggle Is Live ]

A Call for Electronic Civil Disobedience Against the FTAA

April 20, 2001 will be the start of the Fourth Summit of the Americas
meeting. It will feature the leaders of the 34 members of the Organization
of American States (OAS) - all the heads of state of the countries of the
Western Hemisphere except Cuba. High on the Summit's agenda is the Free
Trade Area of the Americas negotiations.

The FTAA is a trade agreement currently being negotiated by 34 countries in
an "effort to unite the economies of the Western Hemisphere" (excluding
Cuba) within the framework of the Organization Of American States (OAS). The
FTAA is based on elements of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
the protocols of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the failed
Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). The stated objectives of the
FTAA are:

economic integration of the hemisphere
promotion of the integration of capital markets
consistency with the World Trade Organization (WTO)
elimination of barriers and non-tariff barriers to trade
elimination of agricultural export subsidies
elimination of barriers to foreign investment
a legal framework to protect investors and their investments
enhanced government procurement measures
new negotiations on the inclusion of services

The major theme present throughout the available FTAA documents is
harmonization. In essence the laws and policies of the 34 countries of the
OAS are to be based on uniformity. This standardization will be based on the
principles of:

Privatization (the transfer of publicly funded invention and ingenuity to
private hands once it's determined to be potentially profitable.

De-regulation ( a misnomer referring to extensive re-regulation of the
delivery of good and services in the market).

The FTAA negotiators aim to create the worlds largest and most far reaching
free trade agreement. Free trade is traditionally defined as "Trade between
nations without protective customs tariffs" a good working definition but
not an accurate description of what has become known as free trade. The
"free trade" that the FTAA refers to is an Orwellian euphemism for the
re-regulation (not de-regulation) of the delivery of goods and services in
favour of private (rather than public) enterprise while limiting the ability
of elected representatives to enact legislation that may be construed as a
non-tariff barrier. That is, far from just dealing with the re-regulation of
trade "free-trade" agreements concern and affect all aspects of our lives
including environmental regulations, healthcare, social security and

The Internet is not exempt from FTAA re-regulation in fact it is actually
one of the Summit's major themes. Indeed, all the hot topics amongst
security experts, hackers, and netizens are being discussed and will be
affected by the FTAA: Internet privacy, encryption, freedom of speech, and
freedom of information.
The FTAA is being negotiated in secret. Despite the claim of a commitment to
"transparency" actual information regarding the working documents and the
negotiations has been extremely limited. Most of the information about the
FTAA has been from "derestricted" documents. However, FTAA negotiating
documents are available to some 500 corporate representatives. This is an
affront to all who believe in open-source and democracy and is an extreme
violation of freedom of information especially considering the drastic
affect that this secret deal will have on both the Internet and our lives.

While the FTAA acknowledges that privacy, more properly consumer privacy,
needs to be protected it is only in favor of such protection in so far as it
does not "inhibit the growth of electronic commerce". In essence, it is not
a right that consumers are entitled to but rather a privilege so long as it
does not impede the growth of the profit margin. Additionally, the FTAA
favors "self-regulation" by the industry, a business as usual scenario,
since governments have "different traditions and approaches to privacy
protection" and may be unable to agree on harmonization of privacy policies.

The FTAA views encryption and digital signatures as "essential technology
for enabling electronic commerce" provided that there is "appropriate
mechanisms for lawful access to encrypted information". The FTAA is
concerned that "these technologies may also be used for illegal activities,
which can affect public safety, business and consumer interests" but assures
us that industry self-regulation is "powerful and effective" and that other
mechanisms may impede "further growth".

The FTAA addresses intellectual property rights but the exact nature is
unknown for few documents have been available to the public. However, the
FTAA, being fully WTO compatible, will fully support extreme interpretations
of copyright and trademark issues. With recent WIPO rulings as precedent it
is safe to assume that the FTAA will strengthen legislation like the DMCA
and support WIPO rulings in domain name disputes, meta-tag disputes and
other freedom of speech issues.

In order to facilitate the Summit and the FTAA negotiations Quebec City is
being turned into a militarised encampment. Despite the rhetoric of "open
borders" the Old City sector of Quebec City is being surrounded by a
2.5-mile "security perimeter" a ten-foot high fence designed to enclose the
Summit. Behind this fence there will be a security force of 5000 armed
police officers. Residents of the Old City will be required to present photo
identification and proof of residence to enter to and from their homes.

Additionally, the Orsainville provincial prison has been emptied of its 600
inmates in order to accommodate arrested protestors. Furthermore, citizens
of other countries, particularly the U.S. that plan to attend the April 20
Demonstration are being systematically denied entry into Canada solely
because they wish to exercise their democratic right to voice opposition to
a secret Agreement being negotiated in their name but without their consent.

However, while extensive efforts are being undertaken to keep dissenters at
bay Corporations are being invited to "sponsor" the Summit in return for
"preferential seating" and other perks designed to give Corporations access
to the decision-makers behind the FTAA. Furthermore, a corporate sponsor
could have a "potential speaking opportunity" for a mere $500,000 at a
reception that will be attended by the heads of state of 34 countries in
Western Hemisphere.

Despite the extensive efforts to silence and criminalize democratic dissent
thousands of citizens will descend on the Summit of the Americas in Quebec.
There will be a Peoples' Summit of the Americas, a forum in which a wide
variety of alternatives will be explored and suggested. In addition, there
will be over 170 groups from Canada and the hemisphere encompassing human
rights groups, trade unions, student organizations, feminist organizations,
church groups, indigenous people groups, environmental groups, the
Zapatistas, women's organizations struggling in the maqilladoras, and many
more - a broad spectrum of focus and opinion all voicing their resistance to
the Summit and the FTAA. Within this mass mobilization there will be a
variety methods of protest - from direct action to legal marches - but there
is an overwhelming respect for a diversity of tactics.

With respect for the diversity of tactics and in solidarity with the
democratic opposition in the streets of Quebec - we call upon hackers,
activists, hacktivists and netizens to engage in an Electronic Civil
Disobedience campaign against the Summit of the Americas, the Free Trade
Area of the Americas (FTAA), and the Corporate Sponsors. Let data bodies
join in non-violent direct action on-line in solidarity with the real bodies
on the streets.

The Internet is that common factor that both hackers and activists have a
huge investment in. The Internet has become essential to both communities:
activists rely on it for organization, communication and dissemination of
information. With the globalization of activism and protest the Internet has
become an even more essential technology. Hackers, on the other hand, also
require a stable, healthy and free Internet environment in which to exist
and explore the complexities of computers and technology. Hacktivism is
based on the issues of freedom of speech, information and exchange of ideas,
captured beautifully in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right
includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive
and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of

Recognizing that the FTAA will constrain the Internet by regulating it based
on profitability instead of possibility and cognizant of the fact this
threatens the freedoms of speech, expression, and information which are
vital components of keeping the Internet healthy and vibrant we oppose the
FTAA. We call for Electronic Civil Disobedience that will disturb the super
highway for a few days and not destroy it forever like the FTAA.

Let us add Quebec to the list that started in Chiapas, on January 1, 1994
which begat Geneva, Seattle, Melbourne, Prague, Davos, Cancun, and Naples.
Let us join those on the street and across the world struggling "For
Against Neoliberalism."

Let us say Ya Basta! Enough is Enough!

The Struggle Is Live


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